After the first couple days, classes start falling into a routine, and so does Adamar. When he isn’t in classes or doing homework, he spends his time using It to try and find out more about Master Gennixia. Kai and Grem are naturally intrigued by his behavior, but for the most part he keeps it from them. He feeds them enough of the school gossip to satisfy Grem, and enough other content to explain to Kai what he’s doing with all his time on It. Once projects start up for Natural Magics though, Kai’s interest dies down and Adamar can spend more time hunting for useful information
Unfortunately, useful information doesn’t come easy. Not a lot of students in his year talk about weird behavior on the Masters’ part, they’re more interested in the behavior of their peers. Adamar tries to find allies among the older students during the time before breakfast. He finds their hideouts, drops by a couple of times, drops his last name during conversations, reveals he can get information on their enemies, and all he wants is answers to a few questions. It’s not a friendship, more of a business partnership. The older students seem to understand this, they don’t care about his well being or why he wants answers, he doesn’t care what they do with the information he finds for them. A win win all around, mutualism in action.
So far, he has managed to gather answers to a few of his questions, but he isn’t sure that they will help as much as he’d hoped. Master Gennixia doesn’t seem to be very suspicious from what the older students tell him, but they could be lying of course. She does her off duty work in either her room or the library, both of which are open to the public and therefore not good places to be building stolen designs. She doesn’t normally visit her room during the day, so that’s less likely to be a place where she works on secret projects. A relief because it is located in the Masters’ tower, and therefore would be hard to access. One of his less reliable informats claims he saw her walking around late at night, but he didn’t know where she was going or the exact time, so that information doesn’t help with anything. She could have stayed in her classroom late grading papers and had to go to the bathroom. Her being out doesn’t mean anything. Still it’s the best information he’s received so far.
He tries to stay unnoticable in her class, but it’s hard because of his natural intelligence on the subject matter and the gregariousness of Grem. His excitement and affability naturally calls attention to their table as he tries to answer as many questions as possible to impress Master Gennixia. He even goes so far as to suggest that Adamar show her his ‘bugging device’. The dead stare and flat out “No.” that Adamar replied with stopped that suggestion in its tracks. Grem had tried to protest the ban the next day, but then surprisingly Kai stepped in.
“Grem, I agree with Adamar here.” He had said. “Master Gennixia is a teacher. Sure it’s an interesting device, and she’d probably love to figure it out, but it’s technically against the rules to have it here, so what’s to stop her from confiscating it and never giving it back to him?”
Grem had stayed silent at that, but didn’t bring up the subject again.
Because of the lack of availability of information on Master Gennixia and the effort it took to be inconspicuous when asking others for such information, Adamar had decided to abandon his collecting knowledge through other sources and try a hand at collecting it himself. Instead of following other students around with It and listening in to their conversations, he’d be following Master Gennixia around in It.
After a few nights of this he is exhausted and hasn’t found anything. He has confirmed that the walls in the Master’s tower do move, that Master Gennixia isn’t building anything in her room, and that that one upper class teacher that all the older students complain about, Master Edraele, really is as sharp as they said he was. He nearly caught It twice.
Two weeks of stakeout later with nothing to show for his work, Adamar considers calling the whole thing off. There is no proof Master Gennixia is doing anything, he could just write a letter to his parents and say that he couldn’t find any evidence of stolen blueprints. But that would be admitting failure. He doesn’t want to fail them. He doesn’t want to disappoint them. He can’t call it off. He has to find out if she’s building his parent’s device, and he has to destroy any prototypes and diagrams she has of it, and that’s the easiest part of the job.
Perhaps though, it wouldn’t hurt to take a break after tonight if he doesn’t find anything.
He sends His mind out into It, waking It up from Its resting place. One more night, than He can rest for a couple of days. He sends It scuttling down the now familiar passageways towards Master Gennixia’s classroom. Tonight He is a little later than other nights, mainly because His roommates stayed up talking to Him about a quiz they have tomorrow. He doesn’t really mind being late because of them. Besides, it’s not like it will affect Him because Master Gennixia is, if she’s following her schedule, going to stay in her classroom for another fifteen minutes. And she’s always followed her schedule. Every single night.
It arrives at her classroom, and the lights are still on, as per usual. She is finishing grading papers, as per usual. Around ten minutes later, she gets up, puts the papers away, and goes out the door, turning off the lights behind her. A little early, but that isn’t strange.
She takes her normal route to the paths leading to the Masters’ Tower. Deep into the walls of the school, up the staircases. He carefully steers It behind her, keeping Its distance, sticking to the shadows.
But then she changes something drastically.
Instead of taking another staircase to the top of the wall, she turns left. Left! He doesn’t know where left actually goes, but He has It follow her anyway. This might be important! This might be what He is looking for! Of course, it could also be a pit stop at the restrooms, but He doesn’t think so.
After walking for a while, she goes up a set of stairs and enters the top of the wall. As It follows her, He scans the surroundings. Nobody. Nothing. Was this a disappointment after all? Perhaps she took a detour for some reason. Back in the real world, He allows His shoulders to slump, disappointment and exhaustion overcoming Him. Master Gennixia heads out onto the pathways high above the school grounds leading to the Masters’ Tower. He has It scuttle along behind her. At least the view of the grounds is nice. He sends Its scanners spinning, and activates color vision, a new feature that mimics human eyes, seeing in their full spectrum instead of with auto night vision or infrared. The school grounds below It are beautifully illuminated by the moon and stars. Too bad most students never see this view.
He’s too busy admiring the scenery while autopiloting It to notice that Master Gennixia had stopped, until It’s picked up.
Studying It she says, “Looks like Master Edraele was right for once. Someone was following me. Who’s your owner, little bug?”
He panics. Desperately He tries to abandon It, He can’t have her harm It while He’s still inside! Its legs thrash and squirm as she holds It up to the moonlight. She starts walking back the way they came, It still clutched tightly in her hand, and still holding Him. He can’t get back to His real body. But He also can’t have her realize that He is still inside It. So, He has It go limp. When was the last time He had felt His body? When He slumped His shoulders? Later? Did He even ever slump His shoulders, or did He only imagine slumping His shoulders? He must think, has anything like this ever happened before?
Well… There was that one time… when He went too deep. But He isn’t too deep. He is safe, His connection is good, better than good actually, but He’s become used to that ever since He started wearing the ‘glasses’ His parents gave Him. But this connection feels even better than that. It almost feels like the time He was knocked out of His body and into It. Wait, could something have happened to His body? Is that why He can’t get back? It would make sense, the feeling was similar enough.
But if that’s the case, what should He do? Who kidnaped Him this time? Did they hurt Grem and Kai? Are they trapped with Him? He knows nothing, not even where He’s going currently. This puts Him at a severe disadvantage. If He were in His body He’d probably be feeling the effects of His panic right now, racing heart, sweaty hands, shortness of breath, but He doesn’t have His body. He doesn’t feel any symptoms besides an inability to concentrate. But He has to focus on what is happening to Him and It now. He has to know what His surroundings are.
He has Its sensors twitch, sending them left then right. They are all in a hallway unfamiliar to Him, Master Gennixia is walking at a brisk pace and passes many unfamiliar doors. Eventually, she stops at one, and, ducking inside, places It into a restrainer and pulls on gloves. One of the blond hairs has escaped her strict ponytail and hangs loose in front of her face. She brushes it back impatiently.
“Time to make sure no one’s still inside, little one.” She says, seemingly to It. She snaps her fingers and murmurs something under her breath. Inside It, He tries to imagine Himself as small as possible, hoping to evade whatever spell she just cast on It. Nothing happens, and she seems satisfied. Quickly she grabs her apron, which was thrown over a stack of papers and a small, familiar looking pair of glasses. Are those His glasses? But how are they here? Where is the rest of Him?
Wait, they are different from His glasses, a slightly different lens shape, a slight color difference. Not His glasses, but built in the same style, mimicking His glasses. Is this her attempt at creating a working version of His parents’ design? Did she get the idea from His glasses that first day of class?
He doesn’t have any more time to ponder. Master Gennixia is approaching Him-no It with a small wedge and a hammer. She’s planning to dissect It with Him still inside! A second wave of panic rushes over Him, but like with the first wave, He can’t do anything. Focusing won’t help Him evade when It is in a restrainer, especially when It is supposed to be empty. Any movement would give Himself away, and the last thing he wants is for her to be more interested in It and Him, which would undoubtedly happen if she realized He wasn’t affected by her spell.
Suddenly the door begins to creak open, and a voice calls inside. “Gennixia? Are you in there?” Gennixia’s eyes widen, and hurriedly she undoes her apron and tosses it over It, blinding His sensors.
“Yes!” She calls back, her voice slightly muffled by the fabric. He turns Its seeing sensors off so He can concentrate better on their voices.
“Come help me with this!” The mysterious voice says, it is deep and smooth. He wishes Master Gennixia hadn’t tossed her apron on It. He wants to see the owner’s face. Who is visiting her so late at night?
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? That’s one of my students!” Master Gennixia shouts. He perks up. He’s found his real body at least, unless someone else got kidnapped tonight. Wait, how could that mysterious deep voiced person take Him out of His room without alerting Kai and Grem? What happened to them? They can’t be with His body, or Master Gennixia would have said ‘those are my students’ instead of using the singular form.
“He’s the heir, I thought I’d get rid of him while I was here. The spies had the right idea, causing the family trauma.”
“Spies? What are you talking about Al-”
“I’ve told you time and time again, don’t use my name while we’re here, Gennixia!”
“Fine. Still, he’s a kid.” She puts stress on the word kid. “What could you possibly have against his family that’s worth you getting caught on school grounds? It’s forbidden for an outsider to sneak in during the school year. If you get caught, the HeadMaster could legally do anything he wanted to you.” He shivers inside It. He didn’t know there was a rule like that. He’s glad He was accepted as a student. He doesn’t like the idea of being at the tender mercies of HeadMaster Haulding.
“My feud with the Erhorns is none of your business.” The deep voice says shortly. “I hired you, I don’t answer to you, you answer to me. I came here to check on your work with the prototype. Is it done yet?”
“No.” Adamar can imagine Gennixia’s frown on her face. “Are you sure this amplifying spell is the right one? I made a breakthrough recently on the design of the device,” She pauses, a strangely long pause. He wonders if something is wrong, but then she continues. “-but it doesn’t fit with the spell. They’re just non-compatible.” She hesitates once more. “And I don’t think I will be working on it any longer.”
“WHAT?” Deep voice sounds furious.
“You heard what I said. I want out. The pay was nice, but I refuse to work with someone who’d harm one of my students. Not to mention, this whole thing is really suspicious. Return my student to his dorm rooms and we can renegotiate, but my price went up, I want full answers to all of my questions as well.”
He imagines that the mysterious mans’ face is twisted into an evil snarl. “You dare try to threaten me?”
“Yes I dare. If I scream right now-”
The man interrupts her. “No one would hear you.”
“Oh you’re so sure of that?”
“Yes.” The man’s voice doesn’t sound sure to Him.
“If I scream, an alarm will go off. You won’t get out of here. You have no choice but to negotiate with me.” Master Gennixia’s voice is steady.
“You mean go along with your threats.”
“No, I mean negotiate.”
“Well first off, what brought on all this suspicion? If we’re negotiating, I want some answers too.”
“That kid was the one who gave me the idea for the design.” Gennixia’s voice was sharp. “His glasses matched specifications outlined on the sheet. And then I finally realized where I’d seen that drawing style and handwriting before. I knew his father, Asvald Erhorn, from school. This is his design isn’t it? You stole this from him and are trying to have me make it. Why?”
“Doesn’t really matter if you won’t do it.”
“Return that student to his room and discuss this with me like a reasonable person and I might.”
There is a tense silence. He wonders if they are going to start fighting.
Finally the deep voice says “Fine. I’ll take him back now.”
There is a shuffling scraping sound that He supposes is His body being dragged out. That was a near miss. But now He’s going back to being dissected, honestly He wishes they’d have talked a little longer. There is a soft rustling sound and He turns back on Its viewing sensors to see Master Gennixia leaning over It.
“Well now that he’s gone it’s time to get back to work on you, you curious little thing.” She says, taking It out of the restrainer and moving to collect her hammer and wedge. He wonders if He can perhaps distract her. Maybe once He’s back in His bed someone will wake up His body, so buying time could be quite useful. But how to distract her? He can’t do anything without moving. But if He moves He’ll give away that He is special, He’ll be easier to track down. But, wouldn’t it certainly be intriguing to a scientist like her?
She finds her hammer, and he makes his move, scuttling up her arm. Master Gennixia shrieks.
“What the heck? How is someone still piloting you! Get back here!”
He has It lead her on a merry little chase all over her lab, but He can’t escape. No windows, this must be the only room without them, and she blocked the door first thing. Slowly, she closes in on Him, muttering a spell. He retreats till Its back legs hit a wall, and then He has It climb the wall backwards. But then It hits a dead end that It can’t climb. Master Gennixia looks triumphant, and He notices she’s done muttering. Around It a blue shield in the shape of a hexagon traps It.
He starts freaking out. She won’t be tricked again by It playing dead. He can’t escape this.
Suddenly, He feels a connection to His body.
But the mysterious man couldn’t possibly have gotten Him back to His room yet.
Still, He abandons It to Master Gennixia’s tender care. Better to be in His body than to be dissected.
Back in his body, Adamar opens his eyes. Staring down at him are the concerned faces of Grem and Kai.
“What the heck Adamar?” Grem asks. “Why were you kidnapped?”
“And why have you been asking the older students about Master Gennixa?” Kai asks, Grem shoots him a surprised look.
“How do you know about that?” Adamar asks.
“I have older siblings who go here.” Kai says, rolling his eyes. “We’ve rescued you, now answer our questions.”
“Not going to ask how I’m doing first?” Adamar stalls, considering what to tell them. He could have just said ‘I don’t know’ to the why he was kidnapped, but Kai won’t rest with that answer, and he still has to explain Gennixia. He looks at their faces. Grem’s slightly confused and worry filled, and Kai’s hardened stern face, but still with a glimmer of worry in his eyes. He has gotten better at hiding his emotions since he first arrived. Adamar considers, why shouldn’t he tell them both everything? It would be much simpler then, he could have friends on his side. Who knows, they might even help him.
“Well,” Grem says, responding to his earlier question. “I would, but I think I know your answer. Headache, probably bruises because the dude was dragging you. What sort of self respecting wizard doesn’t know a levitation spell anyway?”
“I don’t know.” Adamar says, both to his inner question and to Grem’s. “You guys don’t need to worry about the kidnapping. I’ve rather gotten used to them by now. Although, I appreciate the rescue.” He hesitates a second longer, and then dives in. “As to the reason I was asking around about Master Gennixia, it’s complicated.” Kai opens his mouth. “But I’ll try my best to explain.” Adamar hurries on.
“I came to this school in rather unusual circumstances as the mishap with my Natural Magics textbook revealed. And I’m older than other students. I’m sure you’ve both noticed other weird things too.” Both boys nod. “I took the test late because I wasn’t originally planning to come here. I only recently reached the required magic levels to even take the entrance exam.”
“What?” Grem interrupts. “But your magic level should have stopped growing over a century ago!”
“Don’t interrupt him!” Kai says, “I want to hear this!”
“Well he’s right, it did reach its ‘max’ level years ago. Now you guys can’t tell anyone about this next bit. Swear on your families’ lives.”
Both boys swear. Grem a little nervously, but Kai does it immediately. Adamar isn’t sure whether he should be reassured by that or not.
“My parents recently developed a way to manipulate the magic flow to improve it. The reverse of what they do for the inhibiting devices. I was the test subject for their prototype. But someone tried to steal their design.” Kai gasps appreciatively. Grem looks worried.
“Don’t tell me it was Master Gennixia?” He says.
“It wasn’t her, but when I was captured in the hopes that I’d know where it was, I heard her name in conjunction with the one behind it all. Just saying they were working together. She was the clue.”
“So your parents hooked you up with their new device and sent you here to gather info!” Kai exclaims, no longer seeming to care about interrupting.
“Yes.” Adamar says. “Basically.” He leaves out the orders to kill her if possible. He isn’t sure why, but he doesn’t want to share that bit. The idea of their horrified looks when they find out the other part of his mission is… upsetting. He doesn’t want them to leave him. He’s grown used to-no, enjoyed their cameradie the past few weeks. He doesn’t want to disappoint them, doesn’t want to leave them. A soft smile touches his lips. He fell into the classic trap, began to care too much, and worst of all, he doesn’t even mind! Who would have thought it possible?
“Still.” Grem looks sad. “Why would Master Gennixia work with a kidnapper and a thief?”
“Well,” Adamar admits generously. “When I was knocked out, I was inside my bug, which was following her. She and the man who kidnapped me-” He hesitates. “By the way, did either of you get to see him? Any distinguishing features?”
“No.” Kai says, shaking his head.
“Sorry Adamar, it was too dark.” Grem says.
“Well, Master Gennixia and the man who kidnapped me had a discussion. Apparently she didn’t know that the blueprint was stolen, and she was reluctant to work with him after he brought my unconscious body to her lab. So she isn’t completely evil. Problem is, I don’t think she’ll give up the blueprint and her prototype that easily either, not to mention my bug which she captured. I need to get that information back or preferably destroy it so it can’t be intercepted on its way home.”
“So what you’re saying is, we need to blow up a teacher’s secret lab.” Kai says.
“Yes. Basically. Wait, you’re coming too? I can’t ask that of you. You already did enough by retrieving my body you don’t have to-”
“But we want to!” Grem interrupts him, and Kai nods his assent.
“You won’t be able to take on a Master by yourself Adamar.” He says logically. “You need us.”
“Not to mention we wouldn’t miss this for the world!” Grem chimes in.
Adamar smiles, and doesn’t protest again. “Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go set fire to a secret lab!”
Ten minutes later, the lab, which was abandoned when they got there, is burning brightly and Adamar and his friends, he’s still not used to mentally calling them that, are on their way back to their room. Adamar’s bug isn’t with them, apparently Gennixia took it with her when she left. But Adamar doesn’t mind. He packed an extra.
As Adamar climbs in bed, he considers the last problem. What will he do about the bug she still has? He is rather worried about being found out, but on the other hand, if she gets close, he could always use what he heard against her, and she probably realizes it. If she starts poking around, he’ll spread rumors about her letting an outsider who wanted to kidnap a student into Mossblossom Central. Rumors spread fast in this school, parents will be calling for her resignation soon after. He shouldn’t worry, he feels pretty certain she won’t poke around into the bug owner’s identity. She’s smart enough to know not to go after a spymaster, or as he prefers an information curator, who has dirt on her.
The next day goes by like normal, and so does the one after that, and the one after that. Nobody says anything about the burned out room. Not even in the gossip between students. Adamar can only assume one of the Masters, or perhaps the HeadMaster himself, cleaned up all traces of the mess they caused. Finally, a week after the events, something happens. Adamar was bringing a poisonous plant that Master Cellica had requested he retrieve from the greenhouse to her room, when he noticed Master Gennixia’s open door. Peeking inside, he sees a plate of steaming food and a cup of coffee. He glances at the plant. Master Cellica had said it was tasteless. He could poison Master Gennixia right now. Get rid of all his troubles and make his parents proud. All he had to do would be crumble a leaf and add it to her food.
But instead, he turns away. He doesn’t want to kill her. He doesn’t want to have murder on his conscience. Not to mention, his friends would be horrified if they ever found out. Someone else can do his family’s dirty work. He leaves the room, and continues towards Master Cellica’s classroom, all leaves still on the plant.
The next day, he wakes up slightly earlier than Kai and Grem, and so sets about writing a letter to his parents, dictating what he’s learned.
My loving Mother and Father, he begins, and then pauses, dipping his quill in an ink pot before putting it to the parchment again.
I’ve found much of the information you’ve requested. Master Gennixia, as I now know her to be called, used to be a schoolmate of Father’s back when he attended Mossblossom Central. She had a copy of the blueprints, and had built her own version of the prototype, but she was unable to make it work and I destroyed both of them. He hesitates, and then, probably for the first time in his life, lies to them. I was unable to eliminate her as she raised her guard after I destroyed the design.
However, I was able to find out some things about the man who hired her. His voice is deep and smooth, he is most likely in politics like you already suspected, he has a feud with our family, he dislikes having to explain himself to anyone he considers lesser, and, perhaps most importantly, his name (I’m not sure whether it is first or last, I apologize) begins with the letters A-L.
I hope this information is useful, as I was forced to forfeit one of my devices while obtaining it.
Adamar hesitates, then adds one more line before finishing the letter.
I request permission to continue my education at Mossblossom Central.
Your dutiful son,
“Adamar!” Grem shouts. Adamar jolts, apparently his roommates had gotten up without him noticing. “We’re going to leave for breakfast without you if you don’t come!”
“I’m coming,” Adamar calls back, placing the letter in an envelope and sealing it tightly.. “No need to depart without me. Although I request that we make a small detour, I need to drop this off by the mailroom”
”Fine by me.” Grem replies, “You good with that Kai?”
“Yeah, I’m good.” Kai says
“Excellent.” Adamar says, and then leaves the room, letter in hand, locking the door behind him.